BY C. T. RUSSELL Pastor of Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
"Say ye not, A Federation, to all them to whom this people shall say, a Federation; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid."—#Isa 8:12.
HAVING viewed what the leading denominations would need to sacrifice in the interest of Federation, we come now to the final discussion of this series—The Church Militant and Triumphant, and her interest in the Federation movement. Let us endeavor to take so broad a view of this subject that there will be no room for disagreement on the part of true Christians of any denomination. The term Church Militant signifies the Church in warfare, struggling with the powers of evil, while the Church Triumphant signifies the Church victorious, glorious, joined with her Lord, the Heavenly Bridegroom, as his Bride and Queen in the great Mediatorial Kingdom soon to bless and uplift the world of mankind. It should further be added that while in this discussion we have considered the various denominations of Christendom and their creeds, we must now ignore all human systems and creeds. We must take the broad, general ground of the Scriptures and recognize only one Church. Nor may we make the mistake of saying that the one Church is one Sect. No sect, no denomination, however great and influential and numerous and rich, either in sordid or historic wealth, can be conceded the right to appropriate the name which our Lord gave to all truly his disciples. Surely none of us is sectarian enough to dispute this premise. We must learn to recognize the Church of Christ from the same viewpoint as does the Head of the Church. We must learn the force of St. Peter’s words to Cornelius, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him." (#Ac 10:34,35.)
Taking, therefore, the Scriptural view of the Church, we recognize it as the "Body of Christ" of many members, over which He is the Head. It is composed of consecrated followers of Christ irrespective of all denominational lines—those who, turning from sin, accept Jesus as their Redeemer, through whom they have forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to the Father—those who have become disciples of Christ, taking up their cross to follow Him, and who have received the begetting of the Holy Spirit.
Who could dispute that these are the Church of Christ? Who shall say that they must belong to this Communion or that, or lose their relationship to the Head, Christ Jesus? The Apostles never referred to Baptist Christians, Methodist Christians, Catholic Christians, Presbyterian Christians, and so forth, but merely to those whom we have described and whom they styled saints—"the Church of the living God, whose names are written in heaven." (#Heb 12:23; #1Ti 3:15.) Let us keep strictly within the lines of God’s Word and avoid the errors of the past.
Let us to-day consider this Church as the Church Militant and prospectively the Church Triumphant.
The Church Militant
If we all agree that we have before our minds the real Church, the Church
OV188 of the New Testament, let us notice that there is a nominal Church also and that we are not competent to fully determine which are the real and which are the nominal Christians except by the test which our Lord has given—"by their fruits ye shall know them." While the real Church of fully consecrated believers, faithful to the Lord and His Word and the principles of righteousness, is represented by a very small number, there is a nominal Church related thereto as is a shell to the kernel of a nut. The nominal Church includes those whose manner or whose attendance on worship implies a relationship to Christ without having gone the length of a full faith-acceptance of Him in sacrifice, perhaps without having fully turned from sin even in their hearts, and without having made a full consecration to serve the Lord.
This nominal mass may be subdivided into believers who are favorably disposed toward Christ and righteousness; others who regard the Church as merely a moral club designed for social and moral benefit or influence upon the world, by counteracting sinful influences; still others, bitter at heart, sinful and selfish, having no faith whatever in Jesus and no care whatever for morality and using the name of Christ hypocritically, merely as a garment to deceive, that they may the better gain their ends. Thus we find the nominal Church to consist of:
4. Seekers after godliness;
5. The true Church, "the sanctified in Christ Jesus" (#1Co 1:2)—"members of the Body of Christ"—prospective members of the Church Triumphant.
Fightings Without and Within.
Every member of "the Church of the first-born" was called "to suffer with Christ" that he may be also later glorified with Him in the Messianic Kingdom. Only those who will stand the test of faithfulness under sufferings, trials, crosses, self-sacrifices, have the promise of sharing with Christ the glories of the Church Triumphant. "If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us" (#2Ti 2:11,12.) But why should the Church fight? Is she not commanded to live peaceably with all? Are not Christians exhorted to war not with carnal weapons and to be smitten on both cheeks, rather than to return evil for evil?
Where, then, comes in the fight? Who are the foes? Surely none would assail a non-resistant! We reply that the facts do not bear out that suggestion. Our Lord and his Apostles were peaceable and non-resistant, obedient to kings and laws, and yet they suffered violent deaths, as well as stripes and imprisonment. They had their names cast out as evil. And those who persecuted and maligned them verily thought that they did God service. Human nature is the same to-day.
Notwithstanding the fact that heretic-roasting has become unpopular and intolerable to the world, there are methods of privately and symbolically roasting, slashing, wounding and killing practiced by those estranged from God, though sometimes highly esteemed of men and wearing vestments only slightly less glorious than those worn by Caiaphas and Pilate.
Who Scourgeth Every Son.
The Scriptures explain that there is a two-fold reason why Jesus and all of His followers are required to suffer for righteousness’ sake. 1. It is requisite to their own character development that they should not only profess absolute loyalty to God and to Truth, but that this loyalty should be put to the test. Thus we read of our Lord that though "holy, harmless, undefiled," he was proved perfect in His.loyalty by the things which He endured—by His obedience even unto death, even the ignominious death of
OV189 the Cross. The same principle, the Scriptures assure us, operates in connection with all whom God is now calling to be Emmanuel’s associates in the Mediatorial Kingdom. They must suffer with Him if they would reign with Him. They must walk in His steps (#Ga 5:11; 6:12; #2Th 1:5; #2Ti 1:12; 2:9,12; 3:12.) 2. These experiences are designed of God to qualify us to be judges of the world during the Messianic Age—that the Christ, Head and Body, may be merciful and faithful towards the people of the earth. Likewise it is proper that the world should know that its judges have been thus tempted and tried, and are able to sympathize with them in their weaknesses and in their endeavors for righteousness—and more willing to help them up, up, up to human perfection than to consign them to the Second Death. Although this conflict has lasted for more than eighteen centuries it has not been long for any single individual. With the Master, Himself, the trial period was only three and a half years. On the whole, as compared with eternity, the entire Gospel Age of Sacrifice, as the Master said, is but "a little while." And as for the afflictions and testings themselves, St. Paul gives the proper thought, saying, that at most they are "light afflictions, but for a moment, and not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us," the overcomers (#Ro 8:18.)
The Church Triumphant.
The Church in glory and in power will contain no hypocrites and no merely nominal Christians—only the true, the saintly, the "sanctified in Christ Jesus."
Nevertheless it will be composed of two classes, as illustrated by the Priests and the Levites in the type. 1. Jesus glorified, the antitypical High Priest, and His faithful footstep followers, the antitypical under-priesthood, otherwise his "Bride."
Together these are styled a Royal Priesthood, or a Kingdom of Priests. St. Paul tells us that Melchizedek, who was a priest upon his throne, merely typified the Church Triumphant—Head and Body—The Christ, "A priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" —a priest upon his throne. During the New Dispensation that glorious Priest, Head and Members, will bless and uplift, rule and judge, the world of mankind, with a view to recovering as many as possible, as many as will obey Him, from the ruin of sin and death. During the thousand years of the antitypical Melchizedek reign all the families of the earth will be blessed with opportunities of return to human perfection and to earthly Paradise. The unwilling and disobedient will be destroyed in the Second Death. At the close of the thousand years, Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom will terminate. 2. As the Levites were much more numerous than their brethren, the priests, so there is a corresponding class in the Church styled "a great company, whose number no man knoweth," in that they were not specially predestinated. These less earnest, less zealous than the faithful "little flock," will reach a plane of glory through tribulation also, but with less joy.
These, we are told, will be with the Bride as her companions. As Levites they will serve God in His temple, but not be members of the temple class—the Priesthood.
These will have palm branches and be before the Throne, while the Royal Priesthood will have crowns and be on the throne as members of the Body of Christ (#Re 7:9; 3:21.)
The Church Militant’s Surrender.
All the soldiers of the Cross, experiencing fightings without and within against the powers of sin and darkness and their own weaknesses, surely long for the time of their "change" in the "First Resurrection." They long for the time when this mortal shall put on immortality, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption; when we shall be like our Redeemer and see.
OV190 Him as He is and share His glory. Gladly, therefore, do all of God’s consecrated people wait for the blessed change promised at our Lord’s Second Coming—when that which is sown in weakness shall be raised in power; when that which is sown in dishonor shall be raised in glory; when that which is sown an animal body shall be raised a spirit body (#1Co 15:42-44,53,54.) Surely such, having prayed, "Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as in Heaven," are waiting for the King and God’s time for establishing His Kingdom for the blessing of the world. No wonder the Apostle wrote of these, "Ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our Body"—the Body of Christ, the Church, through the power of the "First Resurrection" change. This will be our glad surrender to the Church Triumphant, when we shall hear the Master’s voice saying, "Well done, good and faithful servants; enter ye into the joys of your Lord. You have been faithful over a few things; I will make you ruler over many things"—participants in the Messianic Kingdom glory and its dominion of earth for the uplifting of mankind (#1Co 6:2; #Re 2:26.)
Union or Federation—Which?
We ask, What advantage will accrue to the Church Militant through the oncoming Federation? We reply that great advantage will come to the saintly few, not in the manner expected, but along the lines of the Divine promise that "All things shall work together for good to them that love God—to the called according to his purpose." The Church Federation, which the Scriptures distinctly show us will be effected, will include the various classes already indicated:
4. Followers afar off;
5. Saints. But in the Federation the Moralists and Higher Critics will be dominant forces. The saintly will less than ever be in evidence and appreciated. The outward and apparent success of the Federation will seem wonderful for a moment, but the results will be disastrous.
The saintly few, guided by God’s Word and Holy Spirit, will awaken to the true situation and become separated from the nominal mass. Their misguided hopes as respects the bringing about of a spiritual Kingdom on earth will be thoroughly shattered, and, more than ever, they will look to the Lord as the source of help and wait for His Kingdom to come through the Redeemer’s advent and the Resurrection "change." In a word, God’s saintly people need no outward Federation, even as they need no creedal fences. So far as these are concerned, the sooner all barriers between them are leaped and they come together as members of one Body, joined to the one Heavenly Head and Lord, the better. Let Churchianity produce its Federation and see its folly and failure, as outlined in our text. But let the saints of God draw near to Him and to each other in a spiritual Union and realize to the full the meaning of the Apostle’s words, "One faith; one Lord; one baptism"—one "Church of the Living God whose names are written in heaven." This condition cannot be attained through outward bonds, but can be attained only through drinking into the one Spirit obtainable through the proper understanding of the Word of God.